With the Belmont Stakes held this weekend, it reminded me of the time an El Paso horse took me to the Triple Crown races.
In one of my books, “The Good, the Bad and the Funny of El Paso Sports History,” I wrote that in 1980, Harry Moskos was appointed editor of the El Paso Herald-Post.
“It was like a tornado hit the newspaper,” I wrote. “He was rough, tough, aggressive and didn’t mind speaking his mind loud and clear. But what a newspaperman. One of the first things he did was take a survey of the paper’s readers. He found that 56 percent of El Pasoans were fans of the UTEP Miners, but 84 percent were fans of the Dallas Cowboys.”
MOSKOS CALLED me into his office in 1981. Longtime sports editor Bob Ingram had retired as sports editor at age 75. Moskos appointed me sports editor and told me he had another survey that showed my column was the most read column in the Herald-Post, next to Dear Abby.
He added that he wanted to start covering all Dallas Cowboys games and other major national events such as Super Bowls, World Series games, etc.
AS IT TURNED out, one of my first big-time assignments was to cover the 1981 Kentucky Derby. After all, a locally owned horse, Bold Ego, had qualified for the race by winning one of the biggest three-year-old races in the country, the Arkansas Derby. The big, dark brown colt was bred in New Mexico by J. D. Barton and his mother, Margaret Barton, both of El Paso.
The 1981 Kentucky Derby at a mile and a quarter had a full field of 23 horses. Bold Ego finished 10th. But he had shown enough ability and since he was a frontrunner his owners figured the shorter distance (a mile and an eighth) in the Preakness Stakes would be more to his liking.
They were right. Bold Ego took the lead into the stretch but got caught and finished second.
Barton was wondering if he should enter Bold Ego in the longer (mile and a half) Belmont Stakes. I told him he’d come this far so why not go for it. I was wrong. The Preakness had taken too much out of Bold Ego and he finished dead last.
I WROTE IN MY book, “It’s hard to explain the unforgettable feelings one experiences at the Kentucky Derby, especially as a first-time spectator there. It’s just like in the movies: The big crowd, the beautiful southern belles with huge hats strolling through the stands, the mint juleps – and the singing.
“Yes, the singing. I took my wife with me to Churchill Downs. When they started playing ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ and the crowd started singing it was so emotional we both cried.”
BOLD EGO brought excitement to El Paso like no other horse from this area before him and left a lasting memory for area racing fans. Ah, what beautiful memories.